“I’ll be graduating from The Glasgow School of Art. I study interior design, and I really appreciate how the lecturers here don’t limit your creativity or try push you in a certain direction. You’re given the freedom to explore different methodologies to present your work.

They’re also not so concerned about having a beautiful or aesthetically-pleasing end product. They value the thinking process behind your work more, and they want you to take on projects that you can really connect with.That’s why I chose to do one on the elderly.

This project is very personal to me because it’s for my grandmother. She previously lived in an old estate on Pipit Road in Aljunied, but ever since her husband died, she’s been fearful of going back home. She says there’s no more motivation in life and is afraid of dying alone.

I think the problem with the elderly in Singapore is that they lack stimulation as they age. There’s this stereotype that because they have enough money in their savings and don’t work anymore, they’re fine with just being alone and doing nothing at home.

My grandmother is different. When I filmed her during an interview, I asked her why she was resistant to having a helper at home. In Chinese, she told me that she can still go marketing and do many things independently; having a helper is a sign that it’s all over for her.

There was an anger and sense of stubbornness in her voice. I just think that because she’s not educated and has never worked a day in her life, she became very reliant on her husband to give her a sense of purpose. She lacks a lot of skills, and whatever skills she does have is limited to things she’s interested in.

She likes to cook for example, so in my design, I transformed her three-bedroom home into a space that can be opened up to the public during the day. That way, she can offer home-cooked food to visitors. Of course, it can also be closed for a more intimate setting when she has friends and family over.

I decided to go for this open-concept because her estate is very dead in the day. Her car park is totally barren of vehicles because people her age don’t drive. Everyone there is just renting out their houses to other people, so the friendliness in the neighbourhood is gone.

That’s why I created a commercial space as well. In the area where I live, I noticed that a lot of young entrepreneurs were opening up cafés and other businesses relevant to Millennials because of low rental. So why not introduce that to my grandmother’s estate?

You can come down for ice-cream, speak to somebody’s grandmother, listen to her stories and understand the memories contained within that space. It provides meaning and a certain personal touch to where you’re eating, and it also allows the elderly to be relevant.

For now, my plan after graduation is to find out what I’m really interested in. The mindset in Singapore is such that you’re supposed to have this very fixed idea of what to do after you finish school. You’re expected to get a job straight away or else you’ll lose opportunities.

In Singapore where everything is so fast-paced, we tend to lose sight of what we really like, and that’s dangerous. I don’t want to burnout fast. I want to take my time to really find out which aspect of design I’m really interested in.

But what I do know for certain is that I want to create work that people can always connect with and that my future designs always manage to touch someone personally.” – Amanda Cheng, 22


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Arman Shah

A former travel writer with fond memories of solo adventures in Southeast Asia, Arman is now Founder of The Everyday People. He's also the co-host of Channel Empathy, a podcast about the marginalised in Singapore.